Friday’s are interesting in our culture. TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) is a watchword. My wife often says, “Is it Friday yet?” anticipating the weekend, the holy grail for most people. Their life is lived in anticipation of the next weekend.
I can imagine,especially in ancient times, Jewish people lived in anticpation of the Sabbath, while Christians awaited the Lord’s Day, their day of rest; a time when the demands of job and work were supposed to laid aside; a time when the body and soul could rest and recover from the stresses of day-to-day living.
Rest. For a lot of people, it is the primary casualty of modern life. Many of us do not get enough rest. I know I average under 6 hours of sleep a night during the week. One of the reasons I look forward to the next two nights is that I usually sleep in long enough on Saturday and Sunday morning to get a full eight hours of sleep.
In the beginning of the book of Hebrews there is a lot of talk about rest.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. Hebrews 4:1
For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath,’They shall not enter my rest,'”although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” Hebrews 4:3-4
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:8-11
Earlier Jesus, while discussing the burdens of life that we all face said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
As modernity has made our day-to-day life easier, removing a lot of the drudgery and relentless hard work it took just to stay alive (at least for those of us in the West and especially for us Americans), we have lost some of that anticipation of the promise of Jesus.
In a way, Lent is supposed to be about a period of rest. For forty days we attempt to rest from some of the things that have been driving our lives. When people say they are giving up this or that for Lent, maybe they should instead be saying they are resting from this or that. The idea behind rest to stop doing that which is placing such tremendous demands on you: on your time, on your resources, on your soul. People give up things, or stop doing or consuming them because they are trying to break the hold or demand it is placing on their lives. That is a good thing. Trying to free yourself from too much television or sweets or sports or whatever is a healthy choice, for both your body and your soul.
An important thing about Lenten discipline is its length. It is not so long that you cannot hold to it, but it is just long enough to set the effort as a habit for the future. Those who study such things say it takes at least 28 days to establish a habit (interesting how that coincides with the lunar cycle), and any observance past that time reinforces the new commitment. One could look at Lent as a way to develop good and holy habits, with the goal of maintaining them from that point forward.
Hmmm… That is an interesting idea. Imagine if over the next few years you used each Lent to start one new habit you wanted to ingrain in your life. I can envision a changed person at the end of several years.
Well, my hope at the end of this Lent is that my disciplined prayer life has been greatly improved. I am hoping the struggle will turn into less of an effort, sort of like my earlier analogy of getting into shape (in this case prayer shape).
What is your hope for this year? What Lenten discipline are you hoping to instill into your ongoing life? With that in mind my prayer for you that that God blesses your efforts to more fully conform your life to the image of Christ, instilling what needs instilled, and giving up what needs to be given up. I also pray that God gives you the grace you need to do this and peace you need throughout the struggle. Amen